03 November 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 0-1 Newcastle

Previous Match Infographics: Hull (h), Real Madrid (h), QPR (a), West Brom (h), Basel (a), Everton (h), West Ham (a), Ludogorets (h), Aston Villa (h), Tottenham (a), Manchester City (a), Southampton (h)

As always, match data from Stats Zone, except shot location from Squawka and average player position from ESPN FC.

You could also add "fewest chances created" and "second fewest shots in total" to that ignominious list.

It was simply the most insipid attacking performance we've ever seen during Brendan Rodgers' tenure.

This from Anfield Index is a thorough review of the tactical changes: how Liverpool's formation was both a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-2-4-1, why Rodgers made that alteration (expecting Newcastle to press from the front, as they did at Tottenham, rather than sit in middle and low blocks), and how Newcastle nullified Liverpool's strategy by cutting off the avenues to Coutinho and Henderson. It's not especially difficult to stop Liverpool at the moment, but Pardew cleverly understood what Liverpool would try to do and made sure they weren't able to do so.

But that's no excuse for some of Rodgers' decisions, nor is it an excuse for not changing things mid-game.

There's a lot to complain about. Not altering the midfield when it became clear that Newcastle where able to cut off passes to Henderson and Coutinho. Not bringing on a second striker earlier, and using Borini on the left, in basically the same formation, after he replaced Allen, simply shifting Henderson into Allen's role and Borini into Henderson's. Balotelli's dropping so deep his average position is behind Coutinho, more because of Liverpool resorting to long balls to him rather than how he saw his role.

But I'm angriest about how Sterling has been used of late. To say he was isolated and ineffective as a very advanced wing-back/wide forward is to put it far too mildly.

Admittedly, it's a much smaller sample size for Sterling on the left flank and when played centrally compared to when he plays on the right. This makes it a little closer.

Including Liverpool's points-per-game average isn't quite fair, as so much more is involved besides where Sterling plays, but it seemed enough of a discrepancy to make it worth mentioning.

And there's a vast discrepancy in pretty much every other attacking statistic as well.

Raheem Sterling *can* be effective on the right. He did well there at Spurs, against Cardiff, against Everton, at Fulham, and at West Ham, among others, last season. He can create chances running at the opposition left back and either crossing or passing from the byline, and every now and then, he'll pop up with a goal: like at West Ham this season after shifting to right wing-back or on the counter against Spurs or Cardiff last season. But almost all of his good performances when used on that flank came with Suarez or Sturridge or both in the line-up. When Liverpool had other attacking options.

Liverpool are vastly more reliant on Sterling's attacking output now, and even more so when Balotelli plays, especially in shooting. And Sterling is nowhere near effective enough when deployed on the right with Liverpool's current players. The smallest discrepancy is in chance creation, but Liverpool need his shooting far more than chance creation at the moment.

While we're complaining about the attack. You may have noticed that Lambert isn't included in the passing network. That'd because he made zero contribution after coming on in the 80th minute. No passes attempted, no passes received, no tackles, no interceptions, no touches at all. The only statistic he registered was one failed aerial duel. No matter how much Liverpool are struggling as a team and Lambert as an individual, that's bad. Very very bad. Especially when Liverpool are a goal down, and could have used help from one of their strikers-in-name-only. But it's also symptomatic of how little Liverpool offered in total after going a goal down.

To be a little fair to Rodgers, the set-up would have at least kept Liverpool secure if not for individual errors. Newcastle took nine shots before scoring, but its only excellent chance came from Mignolet's mistake on Colback's free kick, a missed punch leading to Cisse's close range effort, which would have been a goal if not for Johnson heading off the line. Lovren's three failed clearances leading to Colback's shot in first half injury time also went down as an error, but at least the shot was quickly blocked.

Then Moreno happened. And he'd been Liverpool's best defender – relatively speaking, of course – to that point, even if he was as much an attacking wing-back as a defender (he still made six tackles, all successful, and four interceptions, Liverpool's leader in both). Johnson conceding possession cheaply with an ill-advised shot, then failing to close down as Newcastle attacked down that flank, as well as Lovren chasing the ball across the box like a terrier who'd been locked inside all day, didn't help but Moreno's failed interception put the ball on a plate for Perez. Two minutes later, he failed to clear Henderson's back pass from a corner, leading to a two-on-Mignolet which the Belgian keeper somehow saved.

You can't legislate for those type of individual errors. Yes, Liverpool's defensive system has been flawed for a while, has broken down before, but that wasn't really the case on Saturday. Liverpool defended set plays well, except for Mignolet's error, for the third consecutive match if you count the league cup tie. Seven of Newcastle's 14 shots came inside the box, but four of those seven were from those individual errors; the other three were either well off-target (twice) or blocked (once).

Liverpool have been better defensively since getting mauled by Real Madrid, both in open play and on set plays. Had Liverpool's defensive set-up actually worked on Saturday, we'd still be furious about the attack, annoyed with Rodgers' in-game strategy, and disappointed in the result, but it would have at least been a point.

But because of continued individual errors, we don't even have that consolation. We don't have any consolation at all.


Anonymous said...


Look at the passing network. Would ya. Just pass it around the back. That'll work. No worries about getting the ball into the offensive third. Just go side to side around the back. We'll wear those Geordies out watching the ball. Where's the coordinated movement from the mids and that one/two touch passing? Where are the shots on goal? Hard to win without shots.

We have nobody who can grab the game by the scruff of the neck and control it. Maybe Danny can be that guy when he's fit?

With Real and Chelsea on tap, no less.

Would like to be able to steal a point in Madrid. Big ask though. They looked like world beaters against Barca. Then beat Cornella (whoever that is) 4-1 in the Copa del Rey and Granada 4-0 in the league.

And we have to beat Chelsea. Just have to. After Mou took all the credit with his "brilliant" delaying/bus parking strategy for the game last season at Anfield in his big G. Neville interview. It was certainly more fortuitous than great strategy. No? We should have Keano have a little talk with him. Just to clarify a few things. Keano's not one to be overly impressed with a bunch of hot air, a puffed out chest, a $1,000 suit and a £300m budget for building a squad. No siree Bob. It took Carlo all of one season to achieve La Decima. Ask any Real fan or player what they think of Mou. It won't be good. Guaranteed.

Schoffle said...


Rewatched the game last night and noticed that our best shot on goal (a Coutinho header late in the 2nd half off of a Gerrard cross, which was on target) was not picked up by any of the stats sites.

Not that it changes anything but I found it very odd.

nate said...

Because Coutinho was ruled offside